MPs press Malawi Govt to explain status of Nsanje inland Port

Member of Parliament for Nsanje Central Francis Kasaila on Thursday asked for clarification on whether Nsanje Inland port was a priority for Government or not.

Kasaila addressed the question to the Minister of transport and public works Sidik Mia.

“The people in Nsanje want to know the progress on the Nsanje Inland port.” Kasaila said.

Replying to the question the Minister responsible asked for enough time to make consultations  to enable him give a formal and comprehensive answer to the question.

“I need time to answer this question in a formal way.”Mia said.

The Nsanje port: White elephant so far

However Member of Parliament for Chitipa North Aladin Masebo jumped in and said that ministers in parliament should be prepared to provide needed information without delay.

“We do not need to be told about getting formal answers which we will get in future without a specific date on when we will get them.” Masebo argued.

Mia quashed him and suggested that the Nsanje inland port issue is not a policy but a project.

Leader of the house for Democratic Progressive party and Member of Parliament for Mulanje South West Dr George Chaponda accused the minister of not being serious.

“The Minister of Transport and Public Works programme is not serious because he has been the minister for the department of transport for ages yet he is failing to give a clear clarification on this matter.” Chaponda said.

Second Deputy Speaker of Parliament Juliana Mphande said the house had dwelt much on the matter and she needed progress on other business.

Background

The Shire-Zambezi Waterway project was conceived by the late Malawian President Bingu wa Mutharika, who envisaged it as a way of cutting the transport costs of landlocked Malawi’s trade.

But this project depends entirely on Mozambican agreement, since most of the proposed waterway flows through Mozambican territory. Despite this, Mutharika pushed ahead with the inauguration of Nsanje port in October 2010, as if a deal with Mozambique was already signed and sealed.

But the Mozambican authorities impounded the Malawian barges that were to have travelled from Chinde to Nsanje for the inauguration, and made it very clear that opening the rivers to international shipping depended on a thorough environmental study.

The Mozambican government is worried about the impact of possible spills or collisions on the Zambezi eco-system.

Mutharika’s successor, Joyce Banda, is distinctly unenthusiastic about the Shire-Zambezi waterway, and has made it clear that she regards the Mozambican rail system as the most viable option for moving Malawian imports and exports.

The viability study has thus lost all its initial urgency. It will go ahead, not because there is any immediate likelihood of using Nsanje for anything larger than fishing vessels, but because Malawi still thinks it useful to investigate all options for access to the sea.

Construction of Nsanje port cost around 20 million dollars – but this sum is dwarfed by the other requirements to make use of the port by commercial traffic viable. This includes tarring the road from Nsanje to the Malawian commercial capital of Blantyre and dredging the Shire and Zambezi rivers. This brings the cost of the entire project to about six billion dollars.-

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